It seems to me that half a century on we are yet to place value on human life including our own, we rage and are angry or sad at reports of mass human casualties that afflict us daily, through mostly negligent or incompetent acts perpetrated by the state on its citizens.
Yet we get up each day brush it off and continue with little regard for the cumulative effect of such needless losses on the overall psyche of the nation. Which country in peace time wakes up monthly to reports that 150 people have perished in an air accident, 200 almost every week lose their lives to oil tanker explosions, and every other day hundreds die at the hands of insurgents, ethnic skirmishes or religious strife in a country that is supposedly not at war.
The rates of social distress evidenced by the rising domestic murder rates, suicides amongst the young and child abuse are enough to declare a state of social emergency, yet we carry on.
Desensitised and dehumanised we allow ourselves to live in a perpetual state of victimhood. Traumatised by the states experimental attempt at nation building that has to date not focused on its people, we are marginalised and brutalised, subjects of the Nigeria project.
A people alienated from their future, most Nigerians today are now for the first time very ambivalent about tomorrow, having gone beyond asking what kind of future will we bequeath to our offspring, we are now asking what kind of future will there be for me?
And as the citizens ponder, the chaos continues, the body count piles up and we continue to engage in a type of self preservative dissonance where the heart is shielded from immediate pain. Those dying today are merely numbers, statistics that only become real if the name attached to them is directly connected, by birth or other affiliation to us, and then the heart weeps loudly.
It is then they become a brother, sister, mother, cousin, friend it is then that they are a Nigerian, a fellow traveller who by sheer accident of birth found themselves on these shores, and grew up to love and respect the soil. Most choices of life happen after birth, some such as place of birth, family of birth, gender, even IQ are all pre-ordained and cannot be altered, however, what we do once we come to earth has a lot to do with the decisions we make.
Few living today have a say in how modern Nigeria was configured, the British took that decision making ability away from us, to serve their own strategic interest at the time. Almost a hundred years on, we have all collectively refused to grow up and define our own destiny. We are for the most part lazy in our thinking and very slow to act.
We are quick to blame and currently intolerant of our differences, we are blind to the riches that our country possesses and fail to adequately utilise our strengths. We look to an unresponsive government to solve all our problems, yet don’t want to contribute to change the system.
We won’t put ourselves forward for public office, yet criticise others who vote for those who do. We associate with thieves and murderers who pocket money meant for hospitals and emergency services because they are in public office. We actually desire to be in their orbit so that their light can reflect kindly on us.
When we read of yet another flood that has killed hundreds of people, we do not stand in the streets demanding for the officials who corruptly misappropriated money meant for drains, or flood defences, or the increasing number of people who are dying from carbon monoxide fumes from generator sets, because the state has been unable to provide light, and the list goes on, we just shake our heads sadly, there goes another statistic.
Those responsible are free to enjoy another dreamless night in air conditioned comfort. No one is ever accountable, yet our losses keep mounting. If we were counting we would know that our losses in peacetime are more than those of countries that are at war or have experienced war. If we were translating our statistics into faces, flesh and blood characters, with lives and families that are now left in tatters we would know that this is unacceptable.
If we were paying attention we would know that every minute someone’s wife, or daughter will be about to lose her life giving birth, and someone’s son as I write this is dying on the road somewhere, having accidentally driven into a pot hole on a road that has been budgeted for repeatedly for the last three years.
The rate at which Nigerians are dying is fast becoming an epidemic and I for one am running out of tears, there is only so much mourning that a human heart can take. If we were paying attention we would know that our population is slowly being reduced, not by any form of control but simply by the state of bad governance currently bedevilling us.
As the bodies continue to pile high, we as a country continue to turn the wheel in the same direction keeping our fingers crossed. We don’t want to exert ourselves for our country, hoping that God or black magic will perform the much needed miracle.
No nation on earth that we aspire to emulate got where they are without deep introspection and determined planning that puts the needs of its people first. Here in Nigeria, a country where plans are made based on the big man’s needs, and ethnic sensibilities, there is little thought for the people.
Most planners do not have the competence, wisdom or vision to make decisions for their neighbourhood, yet we task them with our nation’s plans. Men and women controlled by ego and greed, they don’t have the sense of awareness that history bequeaths to us, and are unable to realise that they will also be joining the victim pool of their bad, selfish decision making.
A minister of health, who places his ministries funds in his Swiss account, might one day be a victim of a random road accident requiring emergency medical intervention. The source of that intervention now firmly in his bank account cannot be of help to him now.
We must wake up now before it is too late or one day we will all find ourselves becoming a statistic. God save our Crumbling Giant.